Glossy black and up to seven inches (18 cm) long, the Lord Howe Island stick insect would seem hard to miss in the wild. But stick insects blend in with their environment, with some resembling tree leaves, lichens, twigs or sticks.

For decades, people thought this stick insect species was extinct. Found only on Lord Howe Island, in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, the species seemed to vanish—along with many others—after a 1918 shipwreck brought predatory black rats to the island. But in 2001, a small population was discovered living on a tiny island nearby.

Today, researchers at zoos and museums in San Diego, Bristol, U.K., and in Melbourne, Australia, use mating pairs from the surviving population to laboratory-rear the stick insects in order to maintain their numbers. The species may also soon be returned to Lord Howe Island, in hopes the insects can sustain themselves in the wild again.

Lord Howe Island stick insect
Dryococelus australis
4.3–7 inches (11–18 cm)
Critically endangered (iucn)
Ecological Role
AMNH Specimen Number
AMNH_IZC 00329546
Australia (Reared at San Diego Zoo from eggs imported from Melbourne Zoo in 2016.)